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Damage Control

Over the course of the past four years, the Trump administration has enacted corrupt and harmful policies across environmental, immigration, economic, and many other issues for special interests, many with close ties to the Trump administration, that will negatively impact generations of Americans. To help reverse the damage done, we’re tracking key policies that the next administration must urgently seek to overturn.

POLICIES THAT NEED REVERSAL

Migratory Bird Treaty Act Revisions
Agency: Department Of The Interior

Donald Trump’s Interior Department issued a solicitor’s opinion in December 2017 dramatically reinterpreting the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) to allow “incidental” taking or killing of migratory birds, eliminating any penalty associated with an accidental bird killing.

The policy change came at the behest of industry groups like the Western Energy Alliance. It was a big boost to Big Oil and other industries that often accidentally kill birds protected by the MBTA.

The Biden Administration should nullify the solicitor’s opinion and abandon any litigation defending the policy. It should also halt rulemaking intended to codify the policy.

See the research.

Rulemaking Redefining Critical Habitat
Agency: United States Fish & Wildlife Service

The Trump Administration has tried to redefine the definition of habitat under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in a way that would ignore threats to species could change as impacts of climate change become more severe.

The rule change is a giveaway to industry because it would allow oil drilling and other development to occur at the expense of restoring habitat for protected species.

If enacted, long-term result of this rule would be to squeeze endangered species into smaller and smaller areas as climate change worsens, all for the benefit of extractive companies.

The Biden Administration should abandon this rulemaking.

See the research.

Greater Sage-Grouse Resource Management Plan Revisions And Amendment(s)
Agency: Bureau of Land Management

Donald Trump’s Interior Department has stripped protections for the sage grouse on 9 million acres across ten states after the Obama administration worked cooperatively to develop state-specific conversation plans. The bird is an indicator species for the health of sagebrush ecosystems.

Sage grouse habitat on public lands tends to coincide with land suitable for oil and gas leasing, and big oil has opposed efforts to protect the bird. Many of Interior Secretary David Bernhardt’s former clients drill for oil in sage grouse habitat and have supported BLM’s efforts to remove protections.

The Biden Administration should stop defending new, reduced-protection sage grouse management plans and reinstate the 2015 state plans.

See the research.

Extend the Closure Initiation Deadlines of Unlined Coal Ash Ponds
Agency: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

In 2019, the Environmental Protection Agency published a proposed rule that would delay the closure of unlined coal ash ponds, which store waste from coal-fire energy-generating facilities.

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler previously lobbied for Xcel Energy, a member of the Utility Solid Waste Activities Group (USWAG), for three years — USWAG pushed for the rollback of unlined coal ash pond regulations. USWAG argued the deadlines to initiate closure were too short, with Excel Energy endorsing the group’s comments.

The Obama era rules governing coal ash pond closure came after a coal ash spill in 2008 dumped millions of cubic yards of toxic coal ash into nearby rivers. Coal ash is known to contain arsenic, lead, mercury, and other cancer-causing contaminants. Coal ash ponds also regularly contaminate ground water above federal safety standards.

The Biden Administration should direct the EPA to reintroduce coal ash regulations that were undone by Trump’s EPA, as it was expected the final rule will be published prior to January 20, 2021.

See the research.

Payday, Vehicle Title, And Certain High-Cost Installment Loans
Agency: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB’s) Payday, Vehicle Title, and Certain High-Cost Installment Loans rule revoked the “mandatory underwriting” provisions of its 2017 payday rule which prevented lenders from providing payday and vehicle title balloon-payment loans without “reasonably determining that consumers have the ability to repay those loans according to their terms.” Under the CFPB’s new rules, these practices would no longer be considered “unfair and abusive.”

The Trump administration was courted heavily by the payday loan industry with the industry giving over $2.2 million to Trump’s inaugural and political committees. The payday loan industry spent nearly $6.5 million lobbying the federal government since Trump took office. One organization representing the payday loan industry even held their 2018 annual conference at Trump’s Doral Golf Resort in Florida.

Mike Hodges, the CEO of Advance Financial, a major payday lender, even bragged to fellow lenders that contributions to Trump’s reelection campaign “could be leveraged to gain access to The Trump administration.” Mike Hodge’s was so desperate for access to the Trump that his firm paid Mick Mulvaney’s former congressional chief of staff, Al Simpson, $350,000 to lobby on the “Office of the Administration” on the “CFPB Small dollar rule.”

The Payday Rule’s mandatory underwriting provisions were widely supported as they prevented predatory lenders from trapping consumers in debt. The payday industry attempted to counter this by submitting nearly 7,128 comments containing specific duplicative language in an apparent attempt to emulate widespread grassroots support.

The Biden Administration should reintroduce the provisions revoked by the Payday, Vehicle Title, and Certain High-Cost Installment Loans rule and require lenders to determine that consumers have the ability to repay payday loans prior to lending to them. The Biden Administration should also order CFPB and Department of Justice attorneys to cease defending the Bureau against litigation seeking to overturn the rule.

See the research.

Debt Collection Practices
Agency: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) proposed a new rule allowing debt collectors to send an unlimited number of texts and emails to consumers, while setting a limit of seven telephone calls per week per debt.

Tom Pahl was the CFPB’s Policy Associate Director for Research, Markets, and Regulations, a political position created by then-Acting CFPB Director Mick Mulvaney as he prioritized loosening regulations on debt collection. Pahl, an industry insider who represented debt collectors and credit reporting agencies, has railed against CFPB regulations on debt collectors.  Debt collection industry trade groups have spent over $2.1 million on federal lobbying since Donald Trump took office while donating over $400,000 in political contributions.

The CFPB’s Debt Collection rule allows debt collectors to harass consumers. Consumers advocates charged that the CFPB gave debt collectors “almost everything that the industry wanted” and accused it of “catering to businesses instead of consumers.”

The Biden Administration should direct the CFPB under new leadership to immediately begin working on a new debt collection rule mandating stringent prohibitions on excessive electronic communications, including limiting the number of texts and emails that can be sent to consumers.

See the research.

Methane Emissions Proposals
Agency: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator of EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, Anne Idsal’s office released proposals that would stop direct regulation of methane emissions from the oil and gas industry. Idsal had promised to recuse herself from matters involving Valley Crossing Pipeline, which was completely owned by Enbridge.

Meanwhile, Enbridge has spent millions lobbying on methane reform while Idsal’s office was working on rules to stop directly regulating methane emissions from the oil and gas industry.  Since 2019, Enbridge spent $2,970,000 lobbying the federal government on “issues related to methane emissions.”

Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas that is 100 times more potent at trapping energy than carbon dioxide. According to NASA, “after carbon dioxide, methane was responsible for about 23% of climate change in the 20th century.”

The Biden Administration should direct EPA to introduce new rules amending the New Source Performance Standards, reintroducing previous compliance requirements that were rescinded in the Trump EPA’s rules “Oil and Natural Gas Sector: Emission Standards for New, Reconstructed, and Modified Sources Review” and “Oil and Natural Gas Sector: Emission Standards for New, Reconstructed, and Modified Sources Reconsideration.”

See the research.

CERCLA Financial Responsibility Requirements Rule
Agency: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

EPA proposed a rule to strip away financial responsibility requirements for the chemical manufacturing industry.

The proposal was supported by American Chemistry Council. A number of employees of Trump’s EPA previously worked for American Chemistry Council, including Nancy Beck, Deputy Administrator of Chemical Safety, Patrick Taylor, Deputy Administrator, and Liz Bowman of Public Affairs. American Chemistry Council lobbied the federal government to the tune of $34,490,00 during the Trump Administration, including lobbying agencies such as EPA.

Sierra Club’s Jane Williams said the EPA’s proposal paved the way for industry to continue abandoning polluted sites, calling it a “wealth transfer from the polluted to the polluter.”

As the EPA is under court order to issue the final rule by December 2, 2020, the Biden Administration should direct the EPA to issue a rule counteracting this rulemaking and reintroduce the financial responsibility requirements for the chemical manufacturing industry.

See the research.